Writers Asking Writers Questions | Danielle Elaine & Yvette Luevano
BY DANIELLE ELAINE
Last year, we created of series of in-house interviews called Authors Interviewing Authors, where our roster traded conversations in an attempt to get to know one another as well as provide some intimate insights into the life of a fellow writer. This year, we expanded on our series, aptly renaming it Writers Asking Writers Questions and turned it into a five-week series involving established authors as well as new, unpublished writers.
The previous interviews from our WAWQ series are linked below.
How old were you when you first started writing?
A: I've been writing for most of my life. As soon as I learned to read, I started writing and drawing and stapling together books I'd made out of construction paper, imitating the picture books my mom got me from the library. I liked writing short stories for assignments throughout grade school and in high school, I started taking creative writing classes, learning about poetry. In college, I knew I wanted to pursue writing and I sort of fell into a few poetry courses and just fell in love with it. I've been chasing poems ever since.
What was the pivotal moment or time in your life when you decided to take yourself serious as a writer?
A: I guess when I was 21, 22 and started submitting my poems for publication. After going through a few workshops at UC Riverside and getting a poem published for the first time in The Packinghouse Review, the whole ‘being a writer’ thing felt a little more real. Writing wasn't just a personal, private thing anymore. I knew if it was going to mean anything, it had to be accessible to others, an audience outside of myself.
What has been the hardest thing about writing for you?
A: Revision is the hardest. Actually working up the nerve to show my work, in its various stages of completion, to other people is very, very hard for me. Terrifying and embarrassing, but also humbling and necessary.
Where do you find yourself when you are most inspired to write (a place, a mood, etc.)?
A: I need a lot of time alone and I often have trouble sleeping, so I end up doing most of my writing at night when the house is quiet. I'm not necessarily more inspired at night, I just have more time for quiet contemplation when it’s well past midnight and I'm not caught up in whatever needs to be done during the day. There's no work, no errands, no commute, everyone is asleep, the phone doesn't ring. I just sit with a cup of tea and listen to some music and I read and I write. In the morning, I try to figure out if it's any good.
Who are some other writers, authors, poets you are inspired by or admire?
A: I love Lorca. I could never hope to write anything like Federico Garcia, but he's very near and dear to my heart. I read Hart Crane, Larry Levis and Adrienne Rich as examples of absolute mastery. I read Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch for pleasure, I love their styles but I've kind of accepted I can never write like them. I wish I could be funny. I was really into Sharon Olds in high school, she probably shaped a lot of my early attempts at poetry. Michelle Lin and Kazumi Chin both came out with stunning debut collections last year. We studied at UC Riverside together years ago. I keep revisiting their books and I feel honored to know such radical, visionary poets.
Is there any particular work that made a lasting impression on you (written by yourself or others)?
A: Power Politics by Margaret Atwood. Saadi Yousef's "America, America." Gary Young's prose poems.
How does who you are as a writer now compare to whom you’d like to be as a writer?
A: I think - I hope, at least - I've gotten better as a writer. I'm not so hung up on imitating or recreating an existing poem I like. The poem should determine the form, not the other way around. A poem doesn't have to be a big grand declaration. Poems can be small and intimate, but still impactful. Some poems just take time, perspective. I still have a long way to go. I never know where I'm going when I start writing a poem. I'm always unsure of how to end them.
If you have children or plan to, what is the impression or legacy you’d like your work to leave on them?
A: I can't say for sure whether I want to have kids or not, so I really don't know what I'd want my legacy to be for them. I just want to leave an impression of kindness.
What is the impression or legacy you’d like your work to leave on the world?
A: If I am to be remembered by my work at all, I hope my voice resonates with people completely unlike me. While I may draw from my own experiences in my writing, I don't want my work to be read as an autobiography. I'm aiming to transcribe both the ordinary and the universal.
Do you feel a sense of responsibility in your work as a female writer, or female creative, in general?
A: The personal is political. I can only strive to write from my own perspective. I can't pretend that growing up and moving through this world as a woman hasn't impacted my life, for better or worse. It would be irresponsible of me to write or create anything that wasn't true to my own lived experience.
What fears have you outgrown on your journey as a writer? What are some current fears you look forward to releasing?
A: I'm not sure if I've actually outgrown any fears as a writer. The perennial ones are all still there: fear of repeating myself, fear of not having anything meaningful to say, fear of being derivative, fear of being misread, fear of stagnating, fear that my writing is actually garbage. A new one has popped up over the years: the fear that I may leave my best work unfinished.